Rogue Otters

I got caught up in a rare whirlwind that touched down in Newport a couple weeks ago. The Rogue Otters had just been a blip on the radar till then; nothing to upset my kayaking plans. But Billy Kroll had put out a call to find someone to house them down here and we don't get a lot of visitors. I figured after spending the night with Billy, someone might have to talk them down from the ledge! (Heck, he confused them with Mad Beavers!!)

I'd seen their picture on their website; a motley crew of two, but meeting them in person was interesting. When I drove up to the Newport Coast Guard Beach, Brett, the large Otter was right there to say hi. He definitely seemed the business end of the pair. A first impression of Jerry was tough, being as he was curled up asleep on the sidewalk. Perhaps his having passed on the softer grass or sand said something about his personality!?!

Despite the trepidation of housing a couple strangers for a night, I quickly learned I wouldn't have to be concerned with awkward pauses in conversation. There stories poured out as easy as if they been right at home with family. Dinner and a bed seemed a small price to pay to hear about the planning and implementation of their trip and the war stories that come with such an undertaking. It was interesting to learn how two high desert rats transformed into Rogue Otters.
I was amazed to learn Jerry's great uncle, once removed, was the famous Chinese military leader General Tso!

It was fun to send them off the next morning from my Secret Beach for their paddle to Dana Point. I followed their progress on the SPOT tracking site and was surprised to find the trail stopped at Laguna. I wondered if they'd been lured by the decadence of Main Beach, but it was only a glitch and they easily paddled into Doheny.

Had I a larger car, I would have met the Otters out on the water on their way into Newport and probably have been satisfied with my chance to paddle with them, but I didn't think they'd like me stacking my boat on top of theirs. Jerry said he didn't care if I dragged his home! But missing the chance to paddle with them made me give more thought to making their paddle from Dana Point to Oceanside. I usually leave that kind of mileage to the San Diego folk, but there seemed a good crowd going and I wanted to hear them enjoy the stories I'd been hearing. Lately I've concluded that long paddles are mostly mind over matter and the chance to join them proved too strong to pass up.

The Otters entertained the whole group on the way down to Oceanside. Not only was it my longest paddle, I got a chance to paddles areas I've never been in and don't know when I'd get a chance to do again. Oceanside was an interesting, bustling harbor. It was fun to see the Otters off on the last legs of their journey with a milestone of my own kayaking career. The trouble with milestones though, is there always another down the road!

The first email from Brett to ask if I wanted to join them on their next leg received a negative reply. I was toasted the day after the paddle and not in a good frame of mind to consider a second, even ignoring the logistics of another shuttle paddle. But they put off their launch a couple days and with Ken coming home from Switzerland and up for the adventure, the idea of adding the whole coast from Newport to San Diego seemed a worthy goal. I'm sure it was just a white lie--the claim that this paddle would be shorter than the last--and the plan to stop in Cardiff for lunch threw in a chance for carnage or at least a stretch of the legs. That first leg of the paddle almost had me broken, but I knew I had to hit the beach one way or the other and the lunch on the cool balcony was a life saver. Despite the long second leg, I was able to enjoy the new coastline. While Dennis and the Otters were mostly off on their own, I got to appreciate paddling through the warm southern water. Both Ken and I made our longest paddles ever and landed to Barb's cool sodas.

Saturdays juggernaut started with the Otters the center of attention of dozens of paddlers, friends and family. Colorful boats launching from the beautiful La Jolla shore started the Otters on the end of their journey. The San Diego kayaking community had a great outpouring of support for the Otters accomplishments. Teresa and I led out the group and once again I was enjoying an area for the first time. It wasn't long before we were heading down the harbor where friends and family of the Otters were heading out to meet them. Soon we were enjoying cold sodas, burgers and Steve Wilson's music with kayakers mixing with the large crowd of Otter friends and family congregated to celebrate the end of their journey and their return home.

It was a great day and once again Jen, Jake and Aqua Adventures were great hosts. It was hard to say goodbye to Jerry and Brett; I could only thank them for taking me along on a new adventure. Their journey stands as inspiration to everyone. Now having completed the whole coast between Newport and San Diego, I have to contemplate adding more areas of the coast and maybe someday I'll equal Jerry in his California coast coverage. I think I'll do it in smaller doses though!

It took a while, but the whirlwind let me loose in San Diego this afternoon.

Mark Sanders